are geared toward males with Latiker reasoning they are the most likely to be perpetrating or confronting street violence, which, in turn, also renders them most vulnerable to it.
Maurice Gilchrist is one of those very teens. Back in 2011, he admitted to CNN he’d been a full-fledged gang member since he was just 12-years-old. All of his days were spent looking over his shoulder for those who might mean him harm.
“We always used to jump on people, rob, steal, everything” he said. That all changed when he discovered KOB, where he spent his time connecting with others his age, eating pizza, doing homework and just talking.
By the time he finished high school, his grades had improved to the point he had set his sights not only on attending college but playing football. “Miss Diane, she changed my life and I love her for it,” he graciously said.
Latiker recalls Gilchrist as if she only met him just yesterday. She’s equally proud of a group of six KOB youth advisors who have created a music group known as “Tha Movement.” The group’s voice is aimed at combating all the negativity now current music and aimed at youths. Aisha Latiker, Jermel Barlow, Lakeesha Pace, Abdullah Brewer, Raymond Dockery and Ronald Stagger compose the group’s core.
“Our young people need help,” said Latiker. “All of them are not gang-bangers; all of them are not dropouts. But the ones that are, they need our help too. Somehow or another, something ain’t right. And why don’t we ask them about it and try to deal with it? Kids, especially those in crisis, seek attention; asking for our help is all part of what we’re witnessing.”
In an attempt to shock more community folk to action, Latiker set up a mini-headstone memorial in a vacant lot across from her home for all young people who have lost their lives to violence since 2007. Early this year, there were more than 220 stones lining a nearby lot, each of them representing the name of a victim.
During their recent spring break, students from Howard University came up to aid Latiker in planting the more than 200 additional stones she had failed to keep pace with. It served as both a sad and proud testimonial for Latiker.
“They just called me and said they wanted to spend their free time doing something positive,” she said. “That’s the unity I’m talking about, that’s the kind of togetherness we’re going to need. They understood the mission is bigger than any of us.
Glenn Minnis is a sports and culture writer who has contributed to the likes of ESPN, Vibe and the NFL Magazine. He has also been on staff at AOL Sports, the Chicago Tribune and was the founding sports editor for 360HipHop.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc